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Flight Simulator X - Tutorial Series

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Chapter 1: Introduction & Setup

I had one of these a while ago on here, but I have no idea what happened to it. :P

In the hopes of getting at least one or two people interested in FSX (as I am interested in multiplayer on a private/Simmania server), I will be compiling a tutorial series for Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX). The physics are about the same, so if you have a different simulator such as X-Plane or Prepar3D you should be able to follow this series, although interfaces will be slightly different, and I won't be able to answer questions since I know basically nothing about those simulators. This series is also FS2004 compatible.

The simulations in this game are fairly realistic although with the vanilla aircraft the controls and systems are quite basic. Payware addon aircraft (such as from PMDG) usually offer an extremely realistic flying experience. For now though, we will stick with the vanilla aircraft featured in FSX, which includes the Boeing 737-800 and 747-400, as well as an Airbus A321, Bombardier CRJ-700, as well as a wide array of prop planes, including various models from Cessna, Beechcraft, Maule and Piper, as well as various helicopters and even fighter jets.

NOTE: I will be continuing the series as time allows, therefore it will likely be incomplete as I continue writing additional sections.


After opening FSX, proceed to the settings link on the left side of the screen.


Continue to the Realism settings.


You can use whatever settings you'd like here, but for this series, they will be set as follows:


Some modifications you may wish to make:

  • Reduce the crash tolerance to about halfway or even all the way to the left, as you will probably have some fairly hard landings that the simulator will count as crashes.
  • Turn on flying tips. The only reason I have them turned off is to get rid of annoying low fuel messages in the PMDG 747 when my fuel configuration includes empty tanks.
  • Reduce P-Factor. Once you start flying, it might be helpful to turn this down or off all the way to reduce the effect of the plane veering to the left (more on this later). Reducing torque should also have the same effect.
  • Turn on autorudder. Until you get the hang of basic maneuvering, it may be helpful to turn this on so rudder control is automatic (also more on this later).
  • Turn on automixture. This will handle fuel management for you, however, it will not give you unlimited fuel. To get unlimited fuel, check the box beneath.

Once you're done, click OK. From here, go to the sound, controls, and general settings and set things up however you'd like. Also go ahead and set your graphics settings at this time. 


It is indeed possible to fly with just a keyboard and mouse, but I cannot recommend a stick (or even better, a flight yoke) enough. I use the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro joystick - although it is basic, it is miles ahead of KB/mouse. If you decide not to use a controller, here's the basic keys:

  • Left aileron: Num 6
  • Right aileron: Num 4
  • Elevator up: Num 2
  • Elevator down: Num 8
  • Rudder left: Num 0
  • Rudder right: Num Enter
  • Cut throttle: F1
  • Decrease Throttle: F2 & Num 3
  • Increase Throttle: F3& Num 9
  • Full Throttle: F4

In addition, having a controller helps greatly in panning the view in the virtual cockpit. A list of most keyboard commands, including views and looking around, can be found here:







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Chapter 2: First Flight 

Part 1: Cessna 172 at PDX Setup

For the first flight, we'll be using the Cessna 172.

Once you've opened FSX, go to Free Flight on the left side, then under Current Aircraft, click change.


The default aircraft (AirCreation Trike Ultralight) is very useful for practicing maneuvering, however I do not recommend it for learning how to fly as it is a rather unsophisticated plane, to me resembling more a motorized kite than an actual prop plane. The Cessna 172 is arguably the most popular single engine prop, and easily the most popular for student pilots. 

To find the Cessna 172 easily from the menu, under aircraft type, choose Single Engine Prop. It comes in 5 color schemes, but DO NOT use the "G1000 Glass Cockpit" version. The glass cockpit replaces the old analog dials with digital displays and buttons, we'll cover this later. For now, stick with the plain C172. Select the paint job of your choosing, then click OK.

Next, click Change under Current Location on the main screen. This tutorial will have us flying out of Portland International Airport (PDX). To find this airport, type KPDX in the airport ID box. The ICAO code for all airports in the continental United States starts with a K. Then choose Portland Intl from the list. Of course, you may use whatever airport you'd like. Use the airport name and city boxes to find the airport you'd like to use, or enter the ICAO code if you know what it is. There are also three filters at the bottom of the screen: country/region, state/province, and city. Leave the runway/starting position box at Active Runway. Once you've selected your airport from the list, click OK. Make sure Active Runway is selected for the starting position.


Back to the main screen, click Change under Current Weather. From the weather themes box, choose Clear skies. The clear skies option removes all weather (no clouds, no wind, full visibility), removes turbulence, and sets standard barometric pressure (29.92 in Hg). Click OK.


One last step: Click Change under Current Time and Season, then choose Day under the Time of Day section. Set the season to summer, and click OK.


Once all of that is done, click Fly Now! in the bottom right of the window, and wait for FSX to load. Then continue onto the next post.


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Part 2: Critical Flight Instruments

Once the simulation loads, you'll be greeted with a virtual cockpit:


Out of the smorgasbord of dials and buttons, we will pick out the 6 most important ones, which are located right in the center and highlighted in various colors in the above picture. These instruments provide critical flight data necessary for the proper operation and safety of the aircraft.

Airspeed Indicator: The airspeed indicator, as its name suggests, displays the aircraft's current speed in knots, or KIAS (Knots Indicated Air Speed).

Attitude Indicator: Also referred to as an artificial horizon, indicates the position of the aircraft relative to the horizon. The orange dot and lines in the middle is your aircraft. The middle line separating the gray area from the blue area is the horizon. When the aircraft pitches up, the "miniature plane" rises further above the horizon, and goes below it when it pitches down. When the aircraft banks, the horizon tilts left and right.

Altimeter: This one is quite obvious: the altimeter displays your altitude. The short hand displays thousands of feet, the long hand displays hundreds. If the short hand were at 4 and long hand at 7, this would indicate an altitude of 4,700 feet. Keep in mind that altitude is NOT your distance above the ground, but distance above mean sea level (MSL). In larger aircraft, a radar altimeter indicates distance above the terrain.

Turn Coordinator: The Turn Coordinator, or its variant, the Turn and Slip Indicator, displays the aircraft's rate of turn (the miniature plane banks left and right corresponding to the bank angle of a turn) as well as an indicator displaying the slip or skid of a turn. Below this is a "ball in a tube" - if the ball is in the center of the tube, you are in a "coordinated turn". All of that was probably Greek, but there will be much more information coming up later.

Heading Indicator/Magnetic Compass: This instrument displays your current heading, or direction along the ground. This is similar to a compass, however a regular magnetic compass is inaccurate during turns. The gyroscopic heading indicator is not prone to such errors. However, the heading indicator must be reset to the magnetic compass reading periodically. The heading indicator, on its own, has no ability to determine the current direction of the aircraft. It is important to only reset the heading indicator while on the ground or in straight and level flight to avoid transferring magnetic compass errors to the heading indicator. In the above image, the heading indicator is on the instrument panel to the right of the turn coordinator, and the magnetic compass is positioned above the panel in the center.

Variometer: More commonly referred to as a vertical speed indicator, this instrument indicates the rate of descent or climb, in this case, in hundreds of feet per minute. If the hand is pointed upwards, this means you are in a climb, likewise, pointed downwards indicates a descent. If the hand points to 10 on the top, it is indicating a climb of 1000 feet per minute. If it points to 5 on the bottom, it is indicating a descent of 500 feet per minute. 




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Wow , !!  just an amazing tutorial here , Josh

You never cease to amaze me with the quality and scope of these larger projects you take on ...

I applaud you so far on the great deal of work that went into this and what you have accomplished already for players

needing some extra help with  Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX)


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@bben thanks!

Part 3: Startup & Pre-Takeoff

By default, FSX already has engines running and everything set for takeoff. Of course, this is no fun, so we'll cover how to start the C172. There is no setting to start a flight with the plane in a "cold and dark" state, but this section will briefly cover how you can get a cold/dark start in the C172 at any airport. 

In order to save some time I've already prepared a save file with the C172 at the active runway at PDX with clear weather and around noon on a summer day, in a cold/dark state. The files can be downloaded here: ColdDark - extract all three files into the Flight Simulator X folder under your Documents. Don't put the files in a subfolder.

On the FSX main screen, click the Load button on the Free Flight page.


Next, choose the save you just downloaded from the list, then click Fly Now. If you want FSX to load this exact flight automatically each time you go to Free Flight, check the corresponding box.


You will see the same C172 cockpit, but unlike before, the plane is entirely shut down. The startup procedure is fairly easy, at least compared to that of a commercial airliner. It may help to use the default cockpit view by pressing F10. You can alternate between the 2D and 3D cockpit views by pressing F9 and F10. In the 3D cockpit, you may want to turn the yoke left and right to see controls that are hidden behind it.

The first step will be to make sure the fuel mixture control is set at 100% or Rich. This is done by pushing in the red lever all the way, by clicking and dragging. It can be found below the instrument panel to the right of the yoke and is highlighted in red in the image below.

Next step will be to turn on the auxiliary fuel pump. The switch for this is located to the left side of the light switch panel, shown with a purple box in the below image. 

Turn on the Master Alt/Batt switches. There are two of them, make sure you click both. These are shown in green.

Turn on the Beacon Light Switch. Whenever the aircraft is powered, the beacon light needs to be turned on. This switch is the one to the right of the fuel pump switch and is shown in blue.

Open the throttle very slightly by pushing in the black lever to the left of the fuel mixture control by clicking and dragging (or using your controller's throttle lever.) Set it to about 15%. A tool tip should appear when you hover over the throttle with your mouse to ensure the throttle is set correctly. The throttle lever is shown in dark red.

Next we will turn on the Fuel Control Switch, highlighted in orange. Click and drag to open the control all the way. All systems should now be configured as shown:


Now for the fun part - starting the engine. The magneto switch doesn't work well in the 3D cockpit, so switch to the 2D cockpit by pressing F10. The magneto switch is highlighted in light blue above. Left click on the right side of the switch (approximately where it says START) to rotate the key to the START position. Once this is done, the engine should start up and the propeller will begin to turn. If, instead, the engine dies, make sure the fuel control lever is open all the way and mixture control is in. 

As the engine starts, watch the RPM gauge, shown in red below. The RPM should be approximately 1000 as shown. If not, make very gentle corrections to the throttle until the gauge shows 1000.


Next, turn off the fuel pump (which was shown in purple above).

Turn ON the Avionics Master Switch (shown in red below).

Ensure Flaps are set to 0 degrees or UP (shown in green).

Ensure the heading indicator displays the same reading as the magnetic compass. If it doesn't, use the button shown in blue to adjust it. Click on the left side to turn the button left, click on the right side to turn it right. 

Turn on the Landing Lights, Nav Lights, and Strobe Light. Also, even though the temperature isn't near freezing and we are under clear weather conditions, we will turn on Pitot Heat (more on what this does later). These switches are shown in orange. (In the below image, these switches are down (off), they should be turned on with the OFF label visible beneath them.) If we were taxiing to the runway, we would also turn the taxi light on.


The startup procedure is now complete. However, there are a few more things to do before taking off. Switch to the 3D cockpit, and look for the elevator trim wheel.


Although there will be more detailed information to come on this, we'll very briefly explain what this does. If you look at any airplane, you will notice what may appear to be smaller wings in the back of the plane. These are known as horizontal stabilizers. On the backside of the stabilizers are the elevators which are used to modify the angle of attack, or in other words, the pitch angle of the aircraft. Similar to how the wings of an aircraft have flaps on the backside which increase lift at low speeds, the elevators are "flaps" that raise upward causing the aircraft to point above the horizon, and lower downward to point the aircraft below the horizon. 

When you pull back on the stick, it raises the elevator upward, and vice versa. However, elevator trim can be used to maintain an elevator position without the use of the stick. This is primarily used during takeoff and to maintain level flight at low engine throttles. 

Click and drag the trim wheel (shown in red) until the trim position indicator (shown in blue) lines up with the TAKEOFF setting. Pulling the trim wheel down raises the elevator trim, pushing it back lowers it. Takeoff trim is roughly 7 degrees, which can be found by hovering over the trim wheel.


Now that this is done, you are ready to take off!




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Part 4: Takeoff and Initial Climb

All systems are now properly configured. Now we need to release the parking brake. As far as I can tell, there's no parking brake control in either the 3D or 2D cockpit in the C172. To release the parking brake, use the keyboard command CTRL + . (period). The message in the bottom left reminding you that the parking brake is set should disappear.

Depending on various factors such as aircraft weight and takeoff speed we would need to set takeoff flaps. For this takeoff, we can leave the flaps up (0 degrees). As mentioned previously, the flaps are retractable parts on the backside of the wings that are used to increase lift (the force holding our plane in the air) while at low speeds. 

Next, make sure you know where the airspeed indicator is located. During the takeoff roll you will have to watch the airspeed indicator closely, as you will find out.

Now for the part you've been waiting for: steadily increase throttle to full by pushing the throttle control IN, using the keyboard commands, or the throttle control on the stick. From this point forward, it'll be assumed that you are using a stick.

Use the rudder to keep the aircraft centered on the runway. You will probably have to twist the stick to the right in order to do this. Remember to be gentle while making corrections. Carefully watch the airspeed indicator. When you're just short of 60 KIAS, in a firm but gentle motion, pull the stick back to become airborne. When you are clear of the runway, release the stick to gain speed. You should begin climbing at a rate between 70 and 80 KIAS. Also watch the altimeter and vertical speed indicator.


While the plane is climbing, feel free to pan around in the 3D cockpit and look out the windows as you fly over Portland. If you ever need to pause the simulation, simply press P. 


As you climb out, keep the plane from banking to the left by gently turning to the right. For now, we will be flying straight, or at least as straight as possible. Climb to about 2,000 feet. When you pass 2,000, reduce throttle to around 85%, then slowly decrease the elevator trim back to 0 degrees. Your vertical speed will fluctuate between descending and climbing, but should level off at 0 shortly. When the vertical speed indicator is at 0, you are in level flight. If you find the vertical speed indicator stays even above or below 0, make very small corrections to the throttle - decrease throttle to reduce vertical speed, increase throttle to increase vertical speed. Your speed should stay even around 105 KIAS.


Continue flying straight ahead around 2,000 feet. You've successfully completed a takeoff and climb-out! Next, we'll learn about coordinated turns, the function of the ailerons and rudder, and later, we will descend and land back at PDX.

If you want to save your flight right where it's at, click Flights in the menu bar. If you don't see the menu bar, right click anywhere in the FSX window, and uncheck Hide Menu Bar


On the next screen, give the flight a title such as First Flight. Don't overwrite the cold/dark save. Click OK. You are now free to press ESC, then click End Flight. You will then be able to resume the flight later.

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Part 5: Coordinated Turns

Now that we're leveled off around 2,000 feet, we're going to try making a left turn. Now would be a good time to reset the heading indicator:


After ensuring you're in level flight, use the adjustment knob (purple). To reduce the heading, click on the left side of the knob, to increase it click on the right side. Unless you've been in flight for a while (over 20-30 minutes) you probably won't have to make any major corrections.

Once your heading indicator is set, find the turn coordinator, the gauge located left of the heading indicator. Begin turning gently to the left until the left wing of the mini plane lines up with the mark just above "L" as shown below, then release the stick. This is known as a standard rate turn - 2 minutes to turn a full 360 degrees, as shown below the tube ("2 MIN").


At a standard turn rate, rudder control may not be necessary. If it is, gently twist the stick to the left if the ball drifts to the left. In a slip, the ball will go in the direction of the turn, in a skid it will go in the opposite direction. Skidding occurs primarily because of rudder over-use. Once the ball is in the center and wings lined up with the standard turn rate marks, allow the plane to level off. You are now in a coordinated turn.


Once you feel comfortable, practice turning right, as well as making slightly steeper turns. Remember to keep an eye on the attitude indicator (above and between the TC and VSI) to ensure your bank angle doesn't end up too steep. It is important to note that the turn coordinator does not indicate your bank angle, this can only be indicated by the attitude indicator.

Once you're done turning, release the rudder and as you do so, begin pulling the stick the opposite direction until the attitude indicator suggests 0 degrees bank. Allow the plane to level off, and you have completed the turn.

Why slipping and skidding is bad and how it can prove fatal will be discussed later. For now, save the flight when you're done and we will come back to it later for the next part.

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Part 6: Autopilot Heading and Altitude

An autopilot controls the trajectory of an aircraft, allowing the pilot(s) to focus on other aspects of flight, e.g. controlling aircraft systems, monitoring weather, communications, etc. Commercial aircraft are not the only planes equipped with an autopilot. Even our Cessna 172 has an autopilot, and we will learn the basics of how to use it. 

Click Load on the main screen and load up your first flight save. Once in the cockpit, look toward the right of the instrument panel, and you will see several digital panels. For now, we want the one shown in the red box:


For this, it may be helpful to use the 2D Cockpit by pressing the F10 key.

The display has two lines: Altitude and Vertical Speed. As you likely guessed they control your altitude and vertical speed respectively. First, we need to tell the autopilot that we want it to control our altitude. 


Unless we want the plane to try to descend to altitude 0, we first need to enter a value for the altitude hold switch. We do this using the UP and DN buttons on the right side. Click and hold on one of the buttons to increase/decrease the value. Set a figure higher than our current altitude, such as 2,500. Once done, press the ALT button. If the autopilot engage switch (AP) doesn't automatically turn on, press that button as well. The vertical speed is automatically entered at 700 feet per minute, which will be a sufficient climb rate.

As the aircraft begins climbing, it will be important to apply extra throttle in order to maintain speed, as higher angles of attack mean slower air speeds. Increase the throttle to about 90% until the aircraft climbs to the desired altitude, then return it to the previous setting in order to level off. Leave the altitude hold switch engaged. The autopilot will automatically control elevator trim in order to maintain level flight, regardless of air speed. 


Now try descending back to 2,000 feet. Press and hold the DN button until the altitude is set at 2,000. Reduce throttle slightly to keep your speed down, and the plane will descend back to 2,000 feet on its own. Should you want to increase or decrease the vertical speed, click on the left or right side of the vertical speed value on the panel. In the real aircraft, there is a small knob above the engage switch that switches between altitude and vertical speed, controlling which one the UP and DN buttons change. 

We can also use the autopilot to control our heading. For this, we need to go back to the heading indicator, and looking for the heading adjust knob.


The heading indicator has a small indicator that shows the current setting of the adjustment knob, this is called the heading bug. Click on the left or right side of the adjust knob to set the heading bug to direct south (180 degrees).


When you're ready, push the HDG button on the autopilot panel, the one next to the engage switch on the right. The plane will begin flying a standard rate turn toward the desired heading, and will maintain that heading once it has been established.


It is very important to note that with both the heading and altitude hold switches turned on and the autopilot engaged, the flight yoke will become inoperable. Try applying aileron on either side (banking) and the plane does not turn. Try applying or reducing elevator and the plane will briefly climb or descend, but will quickly climb back to the set altitude.

Should you wish to resume manual flight, press the AP button again, or press Z on the keyboard. An alarm will briefly sound to let you know the autopilot is turned off and the aircraft is now being manually controlled. This will prove useful if you accidentally disable the autopilot or it turns off due to a system failure. After turning off the autopilot, as long as your throttle is set correctly, the aircraft should continue along the same trajectory until you use the flight yoke or apply/decrease throttle.

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Josh, thanks for your work and recent upload  on parts 5 and 6 of the FSX tutorial..

Part 5 on how you do the turns sounded quite interesting..

Of course every Pilot needs to know how to use " Auto-pilot" which was the bulk of the part 6

information ..

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@bben - The autopilot is of course far more complicated than what that part of the tutorial covers. There's of course much more to come!

@Ceafus 88 - thanks!

Part 7 - GPS Basics + Visual Landing

For the next part, we're going to land back at PDX Airport, and we will do so via a visual approach. Visual approaches require the pilot to maintain visual contact with the runway at all times, therefore they are usually unsuitable in poor weather. For the most part, ILS (Instrument Landing System) approaches are more common. Under an ILS approach, the aircraft's onboard navigation radio is tuned to a runway's ILS frequency. The autopilot is then set to fly along the appropriate ILS beacon, automatically descending toward the runway, aligned with the runway's center line. However, not all runways have an ILS localizer, or the ILS localizer may be out of service. Therefore visual approaches are still appropriate to learn.

The first thing we will need to do is find our way to an airport. We could fly back to PDX, but we're going to simulate an emergency landing, or at least simulate that we wanted to get back on the ground as soon as possible. For this part, it will be helpful to look at the GPS. To bring up the GPS, press Shift+3.


Resize the GPS to your liking (it behaves like a regular window.) After this, zoom out (or increase the map range) by pressing the up RNG button until we are at a zoom level of 50 nautical miles. We will then remove unnecessary clutter from the map by pressing CLR two times. Then to get terrain shading, we will press the TERR button. We should now have a map of nearby airports shown without other unnecessary information such as VOR stations.


Press the NRST button to display a list of nearby airports. Then push the PUSH CRSR button, and use the outer knob above the button to scroll through the nearest airports. If PDX isn't listed, you've probably flown too far out of the city, and will have to find it on the map. If this is the case, continue and fly to the nearest suitable airport. If it is shown, scroll to PDX (or your airport of choice), and push ENT. Note the altitude shown under ELEV. Push the Direct to Waypoint button (shown in blue) and push ENT twice. Finally, push FPL twice to return to the map.



On the nearest airport page, an important feature is shown: runway length. It is a good idea to choose the longest runway out of the list. This gives you more room in case of error, and longer runways are more likely to be paved. In this case, instead of OL05, I'll fly to the longest runway that came up for me - 5S9, which has a 3780 ft runway. Also important is the airport altitude that is shown on the airport information page, under ELEV. In the above example, it is 360 feet. Compare this to your current altitude.

Once you're back on the map, zoom back in to see the path to your chosen airport more clearly.


On the map, your current position is shown by the airplane marker (boxed in red). The airport of your choice will have a line extending from it that ends at the position at which you entered the airport into the GPS. Now look at the top right of the GPS (boxed in green) and you will see your current distance from the airport.

Next thing we will need to do is select our runway. If you managed to make it back to PDX or another major airport, you can push the PROC button, push ENT with "Select Approach?" highlighted, then push the PUSH CRSR button and scroll to the runway which you want to land at. One note about runways: the runway number is always the compass direction of the runway, with the last digit omitted. 


If you have to land at some remote, beaten down runway, you will find that there are no runways shown. If this is the case, return to the map by pressing FPL twice and zoom in as far as you can while keeping the airport on the map. You will notice the airport marker is bisected by a line down the center. This is the runway direction. You will want to line up in this direction on either side of the runway in order to land. If you're near the airport, look out your window or use the top down view mode (right click -> outside -> top-down) and zoom in/out (using the + and - keys to view the airport). This is, however, quite unrealistic :P



Now that this has been established, begin your descent toward the airport. At 105 KIAS, you will want to distance yourself about 5 nautical miles away from the airport for every 2,500 feet that you need to descend. Once you're at a good distance from the airport, set your autopilot altitude to something slightly above the airport altitude. For example, if the airport altitude is 600, set your autopilot altitude to 1,500 feet. Click on the left (or right) side of the vertical speed in your autopilot to set it to approximately -1100 feet. Note the negative (-). Decrease your throttle to maintain about 100 KIAS, then begin turning in the direction of the runway.


Once you have the airport in sight, begin turning the plane so that you are aligned with the runway. For now allow the autopilot to maintain your altitude. Once you're at your set altitude and are lined up with the runway, disable the autopilot, and set your throttle to maintain about 70 KIAS. You can also close the GPS at this time by right clicking somewhere on the GPS border, and clicking Close Window.


If you made it back to PDX (or another major airport) you may notice lights along the runway that are white and red or some combination thereof. This is known as the Precision Approach Path Indicator, or PAPI. These lights change colors (from the perspective of the pilot) to let the pilot know if he/she is on the proper approach path, or is at too high of an elevation, or too low:


Some smaller airports may have a Visual Approach Slope Indicator (VASI) instead of a PAPI. The VASI is similar, except it shows either four white lights, four red lights, or two white and two red, instead of the more precise PAPI. If your airport has either of these, use it to your advantage. If not, you will simply have to play by ear.

At this point, make sure you have the autopilot turned off. As you approach the runway, set your throttle to maintain 70 KIAS, while maintaining a proper sink rate to approach the runway at a good angle. Try to only use the stick to make gentle corrections to your direction and altitude. Be careful to avoid trees and other obstacles at the end of the runway. 


As you come closer to the runway (as shown in the above picture) make sure your speed is at approximately 60 knots or less. Reduce throttle to idle or near idle, and pull up slightly on the stick. Extend wing flaps to 10 degrees by pushing the F7 key once. Keep using the stick to align with the runway as best as you can. 

As you cross the runway threshold and are below 60 knots and descending, gently pull further back on the stick, a maneuver known as flaring. As the wheels touch down, gently lower the nose of the plane down to the runway, and apply braking by using the period key (.) or the appropriate control on your stick (usually the trigger button), until the plane comes to a complete stop. You've completed your first landing!

If you want, you can watch your landing from any perspective, such as from the outside of the plane, from the cockpit, or even from the airport tower. On the menu bar, choose Options -> Instant Replay. Once the replay loads, right click on the screen to choose your view mode.

Next, we'll figure out how to navigate from where we landed back to our starting airport (or any other airport), and learn more about visual approaches, landings, and the PAPI.

Now that this flight is over, push ESC, and then End Flight. If you want to take off at this airport again for the next tutorial, make a note of the airport code, in my case, 5S9.

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So if I read this right, some airports have a device or signal that helps you land the plane? I never knew it was so complicated! Thanks for the insight! I wish I had the game so I could try it out!

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1 hour ago, Ceafus 88 said:

So if I read this right, some airports have a device or signal that helps you land the plane?

Most major airports have equipment that produces a radio beacon, projecting outward from the runway. On the flight deck, the radio frequency is entered into the flight computer or navigation radio. Once the plane intercepts the beacon, it will begin to automatically fly along the beacon descending to the runway. This is most useful in poor weather conditions where visual contact with the runway may not be possible.

In the event that there is no ILS localizer or it is out of service, the pilot must fly a visual approach, maintaining eye contact with the runway. This is where aids such as the PAPI become useful. 

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Chapter 3 - Basic Aerodynamics

Part 1 - The Four Forces

Now that we've actually flown our first flight, we can move onto some of the science-y stuff. Imagine a Boeing 747 or Airbus A380. How do these planes, often weighing over 400 tons, manage to not only stay in the air by move through the air at over 500 mph? 

Imagine a fish swimming through the air and a plane flying underwater. Although fish and planes obviously are vastly different in how they move and stay afloat, the basic principles of how a fish doesn't sink to the bottom of a lake and how a plane doesn't fall back to the ground are much the same. Whether it's a fish or an airplane, there are four forces at work, like arms, holding the object in place.


Lift and weight are in a continuous tug-of-war as gravity pulls the plane back down and the flow of air over the numerous airfoils create lift, holding the plane in the air. As the plane moves forward under the thrust created by the engine(s), friction with air particles creates drag, reducing forward movement.  Airfoils are devices on the aircraft intended to take advantage of air currents in order to control the aircraft.

Lift: Wings and stabilizers are shaped so that air is deflected downward as it moves across and under the wing. According to the third law, this means that the plane would then rise in the opposite direction of the downward airflow. This is why a typical airplane (not counting helicopters) can't simply lift off the ground. They take off down a runway, gaining speed, increasing airflow across the wings. Then, once a point is reached where there is sufficient airflow to hold the plane in the air, elevator is applied to decrease the lift in the rear section of the aircraft, causing the nose to rise and the plane to leave the ground.

One interesting thing to note is that, on its own, an airplane would eventually leave the ground on its own if enough speed were gained. However, a runway long enough for this to happen would be highly impractical. :P

Thrust: Thrust works the same way as lift, except horizontally instead of vertically. In our aircraft, a combustion engine powers a piston which turns a propeller at the front of the plane. The propeller in this case has two blades. Think of these blades as wings that are generating lift, except horizontally. The propeller accelerates air behind the plane, and in this case, the opposite force is the forward motion of the aircraft. Thrust is necessary to counter drag as the plane moves through the air. If thrust is lost, drag will reduce the plane's speed through the air, which in turn decreases airflow across the wings, which in turn decreases lift, causing the plane to descend. 


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my apologies for missing the part 7 update !

Your doing such a great job with this my friend..

It has to be one of the most comprehensive tutorials , I have ever seen ...

I never realized when you started all of this of course how involved and detailed this would be..

But your continuing to do a marvelous job with it to date ..



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On 12/8/2016 at 0:58 AM, pupper_donut said:

Imagine a fish swimming through the air and a plane flying underwater. Although fish and planes obviously are vastly different in how they move and stay afloat, the basic principles of how a fish doesn't sink to the bottom of a lake and how a plane doesn't fall back to the ground are much the same. Whether it's a fish or an airplane, there are four forces at work, like arms, holding the object in place.

I like this comparison a lot. :D


On 12/8/2016 at 0:58 AM, pupper_donut said:

One interesting thing to note is that, on its own, an airplane would eventually leave the ground on its own if enough speed were gained. However, a runway long enough for this to happen would be highly impractical. :P

Like really really really long? :P

Nice update to the tutorial series, I look forward to more. :)

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@bben lol no worries, thanks for the compliment!

@Ceafus 88 I read that comparison a while back when learning about this stuff and thought I'd reuse it. :P

Part 2: Three Axes + Control Surfaces

Throughout the course of this series so far, you've heard "roll", "pitch" and "yaw" several times. You've also heard about flaps, ailerons, rudders, elevators, and stabilizers. Now, we will attempt to clarify what all of this means. 

The three axes, as you might imagine, are visually similar to a 3D coordinate system. In this case, instead of X, Y, and Z, the axes are referred to as roll, pitch, and yaw, respectively.


Rolling is the movement of an aircraft along it's roll axis, which runs parallel to the aircraft going straight through the center of the fuselage. When we say a plane is "banking" to the left, the plane is moving to the left along its roll axis. This is where the term "barrel roll" is derived from, when a plane completes a full rotation along both the roll and pitch axes at the same time, causing the plane to follow a helical path. The roll axis is also known as the longitudinal axis, the pitch axis is known as the lateral axis, and the yaw axis is known as the vertical axis.

Flight control surfaces control an aircraft's attitude. The attitude is defined as the aircraft's orientation about its center of mass. 

The aircraft's pitch is controlled by the elevator. Roll is controlled by the ailerons, and yaw is controlled by the rudder. The elevator usually has smaller control surfaces on both sides known as trim tabs. As you know from using elevator trim, trim tabs are used to maintain a stable desired attitude without the need to apply continuous force on the flight yoke. Trim tabs can also be found on the rudder and ailerons of a larger aircraft, but are uncommon on lightweight aircraft such as our C172.



As demonstrated in the above .gif, the ailerons decrease lift under one wing while increasing lift under the other. The asymmetrical lift causes the plane to bank toward the side with the decreased lift. In a left turn, the left aileron is pointed up, and the right aileron is pointed down.

To create an upward angle of attack, the elevator points upward to decrease lift under the stabilizer. The asymmetrical lift causes the nose to point up. Likewise, to create a downward angle of attack, the elevators point downward to increase lift under the stabilizer, causing the nose to point down.


The rudder deflects oncoming airflow, by increasing pressure on one side and decreasing pressure on the other. The plane then turns in the direction of the decreased pressure. This is identical to the rudder on a boat.

Flight control surfaces also include flaps, slats, and spoilers. Flaps are intended to increase lift at lower speeds, allowing the aircraft to remain airborne at low air speeds. Flaps are critical for use during takeoffs and landings in large aircraft, such as the Boeing 737-800 shown below. Slats serve the same purpose as flaps, but are positioned on the leading edge (front side) of the wing instead of the trailing edge (back side). Spoilers are retractable plates on the top of the wing that significantly decrease ("spoil") airflow across the wings, greatly reducing lift behind the spoilers.


A Boeing 737-800 with completely retracted flaps and spoilers.


The same aircraft, with fully extended flaps and spoilers.

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sorry josh, i have fallen behind a bit on your great updates here...


everything looks just as impressive as it has been since you started this massive project...

Continue to keep up the great work with this !

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@bben thanks as always for the support/encouragement!

@Ceafus 88 they are public domain graphics courtesy of NASA.

Chapter 4: Flight Planning & Skills

Part 1: Flight Planner, DCA Takeoff

Now that the basics are out of the way, we can begin taking on some more advanced aspects of flight, which will be covered throughout the next several posts. We will still use our C172 trainer with the basic cockpit. Open FSX, then click Load on the main screen.


Choose your cold/dark C172 save from the list, and click Fly Now.


Now we will set up a VFR flight plan from Reagan National Airport (KDCA) to Teterboro Airport (KTEB). If the menu bar across the top is hidden, right click anywhere on screen and uncheck Hide Menu Bar. Click Flights, then Flight Planner.


A screen with various buttons and settings will be shown. Start by clicking Select under the departure location box on the Create tab.


Next you will see a familiar screen: the airport selection window. In the airport ID box, enter KDCA. Choose the airport from the list, and click OK.


The departure location box will be filled in and should show that our departure location is KDCA on the active runway. Next, click Select under the destination airport box.


The airport selection box will appear again. In the airport ID field, enter KTEB and click OK. Under flight plan type, choose VFR (Visual Flight Rules). You'll learn more about the differences between VFR and IFR later, but for now here is a brief explanation:

Visual Flight Rules: Requires the pilot to fly by visual reference (seeing where the plane is going from the cockpit window) and requires the pilot to maintain altitude and heading, as well as collision avoidance. Most general aviation pilots use VFR. Can request a flight following from air traffic control, but this service is advisory only.

Instrument Flight Rules: Requires the pilot to fly by instrument reference (relying on cockpit instruments instead of what's outside the cockpit window) and requires the pilot to maintain an altitude assigned by air traffic control. Collision avoidance is handled by ATC. Used by commercial flights and some general aviation flights, especially when weather is poor.

Next in the window, click Find Route. Your configuration should look like this:


Next you'll see a map with several purple and blue dots across it. These dots represent airports, blue ones being larger airports. The map also shows VORs and NDBs (more on those later as well). You can configure what is shown on the map via the green and red buttons across the top. Use the magnifying glass button to zoom in once, and hide everything except airports, routes, and terrain shading to get a better view of our flight path.


The default 3,500 feet will be a good altitude for this flight. If 3500 is not shown, enter it into the cruising altitude field and click OK. On the following screen, save the flight plan file to a location of your choice. After saving, you will receive a message asking if you'd like your aircraft moved to the departure airport listed. Click Yes.


As soon as you choose Yes, the new location will begin loading, and you will be presented with the same cold and dark cockpit as before, except on the runway at DCA instead of PDX.

Next we need to start up the aircraft. We already went over the startup procedures in Chapter 2 Part 3, but here is a basic recap. 

  1. Parking Brake: SET
  2. Fuel mixture: 100%
  3. Aux. Fuel Pump: ON
  4. Alternator: ON
  5. Battery: ON
  6. Beacon Light: ON
  7. Avionics Master: ON
  8. Throttle: 15%
  9. Fuel Control: OPEN
  10. Flaps: UP
  11. Magneto Dial: START
  12. RPM: Check 1000
  13. Pitot Heat: ON
  14. Nav Lights, Landing Lights, Strobe Light: ON
  15. Elevator Trim: SET FOR TAKEOFF

Open the GPS (Shift+3) and move it to a convenient spot and size it to your liking. Like the landing tutorial, press CLR twice, TERR once, and use the RNG buttons to zoom out so you can see the entire flight plan.


Now that we have the flight plan ready, set the autopilot altitude to our cruise altitude of 3,500 feet. Do not press the ALT or AP buttons yet.


Once everything is set, release the parking brake (Shift+.) and get ready to take off. As before, gradually advance the throttle to 100%. Rotate at 70 kts (rotation is the stage during takeoff where the front wheels leave the ground.) Once you're clear of the runway, release the stick, then press the ALT button and AP to engage the autopilot (if it is not already engaged.) Once the autopilot is engaged, you may have to press the HDG button twice in order to regain lateral control over the aircraft. 

Once you're in a steady climb, look at your GPS, and begin turning the aircraft so that you are flying along the red line toward your destination airport.


Now we're going to tell the autopilot to fly to our destination. Above and to the right of the altimeter (above the gauge immediately to the right) there is a switch that says NAV GPS and has an indicator to the left that, by default, is set to NAV. Press this button and the indicator will change to GPS and will be illuminated in green. Now, press the NAV button on the autopilot panel to activate the Nav Hold Switch. You will then notice that the autopilot is controlling both lateral and vertical movement and is effectively navigating itself to Teterboro.


Keep an eye on the altimeter. When it hits 3,500, the elevator trim will automatically lower to keep the plane in level flight. However, to avoid gaining too much speed, you will need to reduce your throttle. Allow the aircraft to speed up to around 105 KIAS, and reduce throttle gently to about 90%. The autopilot will manage elevator trim to keep the plane in level flight.

Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight, remembering to keep an eye on the instruments and GPS to ensure everything is going as planned. Our flight time will be a little over an hour and a half. I'll finish this one with a view of the DC suburbs.


When you're done (or you start getting close to Teterboro) go ahead and save the flight. In the next part we will land at Teterboro.

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Josh, I really like how your continuing this past basics, and into the advanced aspects of this great game..

I know FSX players but also those thinking about getting the game will appreciate that you are getting into some real details now of how one can enjoy this game..


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